With 54 combat aircraft, and 54 training aircraft in its air force, Argentina’s military looks like a force to contend with — on paper. In fact, it’s more of a paper tiger.
Fully 75% of the country’s training aircraft (which do double duty in border control) date from the 1970s and 1980s, and are in dire need of an upgrade. The country’s entire fleet of A-4 Skyhawk fighters was permanently grounded for obsolescence earlier this year, leaving only 32 vintage, homegrown IA 58 Pucara turboprops to defend the country. Basically, its entire air force is in need of a facelift.
But before Argentina can put any modern fighter jets in the air, it needs to buy some modern training aircraft to teach its pilots to fly them.
Which is where our story begins.
Texans for Argentina
Specifically, as revealed in a notification to Congress from the Pentagon’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA), Argentina has asked Congress to approve a sale of two dozen T-6C+ turboprops from Beechcraft Defense Co., a subsidiary of U.S. defense contractor Textron(NYSE:TXT).
Technically a “trainer” aircraft used to prepare pilots to fly more advanced jet fighters, the T-6 Texan boasts a top speed of Mach 0.67 and sports six wing-mounted “hardpoints” that can be loaded with weaponry. These characteristics permit the aircraft to be modified into a light attack aircraft, designated the AT-6. This would permit the aircraft to perform double duty as combat patrol aircraft — at least until the country is able to buy some dedicated fighters — while at the same time serving as trainer for the pilots who will fly the new fighters.
Indeed, according to DSCA, this is precisely Argentina’s plan: “The proposed sale will revitalize Argentina’s capability to train its pilots and fulfill border control missions, especially along its porous northern border. The Argentine Air Force (AAF) will use the enhanced capability to redevelop a professional pilot corps and as a deterrent to illicit activity.”
Original post @fool.com